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NHL will skip the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea

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The move is official.

Ice Hockey Gold Medal - Sweden v Canada Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The league announced its decision Monday following lengthy negotiations with the IIHF and IOC regarding the continued involvement of NHL players in the big international competition.

Sportsnet has a statement from the NHL on the move, and says the announcement is being made now in order to avoid clashing with the postseason, which is set to begin April 12. Here’s the full statement from the league:

“We have previously made clear that, while the overwhelming majority of our Clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject. A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018.

And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the Clubs. As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 Regular Season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”

The NHL has been participating in the Olympics since 1998 in Nagano, Japan, and appeared in the most recent Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. For Sochi, the IOC agreed to cover the insurance and travel costs for players, which Sportsnet says came out to roughly $14 million, but it wouldn’t do it again this time around.

The IIHF was willing to step in and pay those costs instead of the IOC to get the NHL to participate in 2018, but Sportsnet says the league “didn’t want money earmarked for developing the game worldwide to be used” for those purposes. It seems to me that having the world’s best players playing in Korea would help develop worldwide popularity, but hey, here we are.

The report specifically says that owners want that money to come from the IOC, which makes massive profits from each Olympics through its many lucrative sponsors. It appears the NHL feels it’s an unfair bargain for the IOC to profit off the participation of its players without any investment, even if someone other the league foots the bill. One reported proposal had the NHL requesting status as an official sponsor of the Olympics, which would’ve allowed it to use the Games’ branding as part of its marketing, but that was declined.

Many players have stated clearly that they want to go to South Korea, and at least one owner has even said he’d be willing to let his players do it even if the NHL declined to participate. Now that the league has done just that, it’ll be interesting to see how contentious of an issue this becomes, and how the rosters for the Olympics in Pyeongchang ultimately look.

One positive, if you’re looking for one from the Blackhawks’ perspective, is that they likely won’t lose several top players to the Olympics for a chunk of the 2017-18 season.

At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Chicago had 10 players participating: Patrick Kane (Team USA), Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith (Canada), Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger (Sweden), Marian Hossa, Michal Handzus (Slovakia), and Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic).